Tag: Great Pyramid of Giza

Day 1000: How It Ends

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Inside this cubicle the air is thick as honey, with asphyxiating flecks of the mundane bracing against the irrefutable promise of a golden weekend. Outside these pin-cushion partitions – and indeed inside as well – every tiny molecule in the universe is saying its goodbyes to its neighbors and preparing to splash into the unknown permutations of a distant someday. My fingers hammer at these tiny plastic letters, fully ignorant of what’s to come.

Or are they? The hallowed fingers of esteemed science – no doubt similar in size and shape to my own, only tasked with a far more specific purpose – have combed back the hair of the observable now and picked at the scalp-nits of projection. The fields of astronomy, physics, mathematics, and a cabinet full of –ologies have given us a map of what’s to come. A timeline of time’s last hurrah.

And the best part? If any of these predictions are wrong, every record of them will likely be destroyed before anyone finds out. That’s my kind of science.

Genetics-1

Within 10,000 years, human genetic variation will no longer be regionalized. This won’t mean we’ll all look the same – the blonde gene will still speckle crowds and set up offensive jokes, but it will be distributed equally worldwide. This forecasted panmixia is far more optimistic than astrophysicist Brandon Carter’s Doomsday Argument, which places our present at roughly the halfway point of humankind’s civilized journey, and projects a 95% likelihood that we’ll be wholly extinct in 10,000 years.

If global warming hasn’t already soaked us into a Kevin Costner-esque hellscape by then, we may also be facing the melting of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which will raise the sea levels by 3 or 4 meters above wherever it will be once we lose the rest of the polar ice caps, which should happen long before then.

Long term forecast: buy a big-ass boat. Read more…

Day 264: The Seven Ancient Big-Shots

With so many things (Disneyland, West Edmonton Mall, Christina Hendricks) being billed as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’, you’d think the unspoken first seven should be branded on the surface of our collective brain. But the average person would trip over their garbled memory if they tried to list them. This supposed ‘common knowledge’ is far from common – I’d bet I could run into more people today who could list seven previous winners of American Idol before rattling off the Big Seven.

Part of the confusion comes from the diffusion of this list. We now have the Seven Wonders of Wales, the Seven Wonders of Nature, and a smattering of modernized lists to choose from. I may revisit one of these other lists in the future; today I’m sticking to the original seven, or the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The word ‘wonder’ is, along with this list, just a marketing ploy. After the Greeks ran the table and conquered most of the known world in the 4th century BC, the list became a kind of tourist guide for the masses. The oldest such list comes from a poem by Antipater of Sidon, and it makes use of the word ‘theamata’, which means ‘sights’. I guess this wasn’t drawing in the gift-shop bucks because later lists use ‘thaumata’ instead, which means ‘wonder’. Always go with the sizzle, that’s an Ancient Greek saying.

So what’s on the list? What did the ancients save up their hard-earned travelling budget to soak up? Let’s start with the oldest one.

This is the one most people can remember, possibly because it’s the only one that’ll still make it into guidebooks today. The Great Pyramid of Giza took about ten or twenty years to build, and remained the tallest man-made structure in the world until the central spire at the Lincoln Cathedral in England was raised up in about 1311, more than 3800 years later.

The Great Pyramid was already caked in dust by the time the Greeks put together this list. Its original raison d’être was as a tomb for the Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu, who is known today for only one thing: building the Great Pyramid. Okay, it was a vanity project. Still, pretty impressive.

Around 600BC, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were constructed near what is now Al Hillah in Iraq. Well, maybe. This is the one Ancient Wonder that may or may not have existed. King Nebuchandnezzar II allegedly ordered its construction because his wife was homesick for the plants of her homeland (which may or may not have been the forest moon of Endor). Read more…